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Why Your Next Road Trip Should Be Through Western Rwanda

A week ago I did a grand tour of western Rwanda that I would rather term as a green belt.

Beyond Nyabihu there’s nothing but volcanic fields, green tea field and  luxury resorts.

For the past decade, travel to western Rwanda has meant sleeping in an unremarkable  hotels and day-tripping to the golden Gisenyi currently called Rubavu, that 130-km circuit of green waves and rolling hills outside of town, and then capping your trip with a pre-departure soak in the lush vegetation in Gishwati forest before heading to golden lake views of all times. All done along-side everyone else stopping over between the Rubavu and Karongi. But newly opened luxury-design lodges 3B Hotels who own Kivu lodge, on the lake—are restoring the fantasy of a Rwandan lunar frontier worthy of exploration beyond a weekend.

 

Kivu Lodge.

Kivu Lodge in Western Rwanda. Part of the 3B Hotels Group.

You could helicopter between their properties between Kigali, Musanze, Karongi and the soon to be opened close to Akagera National park in the east of Rwanda, but consider going by car, driving from Kigali to Musanze on Gorilla safari lodge up to the Rubavu peninsula via the more rugged north, then looping back down to the Blue lake Kivu.  If you spread out the 227-mile drive over four or five days, spending a night or two at each hotel, you’ll have time to take in the haunting volcanic fields and vast plains reminiscent of Rwanda. Out here, you’ll see more hills, vegetation, mind blowing views than people.

GISHWATI TEA FIELDS AND FOREST

Gishwati Tea fields are so amazing for both camping close and tour onlookers

Volcanoes close to Gorilla Safari Lodge where you can start off your journey to the western green belt

Once you land, you don’t have to drive too far to feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. The concrete-and-green adventure is just 1 and 20 minutes from Musanze but seems a world away. Close to is Gishwati forest.  It has an outdoor hot activity for some of you who love birding life, that looks out onto massive green tea covered fields.

There is no artificial light and no noise of any kind (you will only hear bird chirp, since just there are so many trees). The other break from the silence is the gentle hiss of wind waves coming from the upper hills rolling down the valleys. It’s particularly spectacular during a soak of the afternoon, in the fading western sunlight (and even more surreal when you consider sleeping in Musanze at Gorillas Safari lodge and wake up on a mega breakfast to give you energy of stretching your eye lenses to grasp the endless fable mountains).

Luxurious 3B Hotels group restaurants.

From here, continue west to Karongi via Rubengera on the famous Congo Nile trail. Route 1 cuts through mile after mile of sharp bends and hills, but the only traffic you’ll encounter is packs of eucalyptus galloping next to your car sliding backwards. The drive to Kivu lodge Farm is nearly 2 hours, so plan to stop stare, stop, stare and stop to stare at the glamorous west. Packed snack and water is advisable as you will not find much stop centres where you can buy a trusted snack

CONGO NILE TRAIL

Part of the snake soft roads that make up the Congo Nile Trail in Western Rwanda

The 227 Kms long distance has been known as the best product so far to me Rwanda development board has ever developed, for the country that’s yearning for After Gorilla experience packages. I guess this forms part of your experience as you traverse via the western green belt in Rwanda. Here you need to plan for 5 days or so if you are to cycle around. Each stopover will usher you into another one. I did not get a chance to camp or stop a lot but managed to have a brief glance of Mugonero base camp that happens to be close to Kivu lodge where I was staying.

Warning !!!

Please do not forget to pack your camera, summer like wear as the place looks more like Hawaii and those other places you see in movies and celebrity shows. Stop take a photo and you will thank me later

In the next episode I will tell you life on water with Iliza boat courtesy of iliza expeditions.

IliZA House Boat owned by Iliza expeditions. Wait for the Iliza story next.

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